A bid to make it easier for convenience stores in Iowa to sell hard liquor has fallen short.
Earlier this week, the Iowa Senate narrowly voted to remove restrictions which require convenience store owners to install a separate entrance and a separate cash register if they want to sell hard alcohol. But on Thursday the Iowa House voted to maintain the current restrictions.
Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, said his "gut feeling" is it is a "bad idea" to have a single convenience store clerk selling everything in the store — including bottles of hard alcohol.
"All I can do is picture an 18-year-old clerk at one o’clock in the morning — and we’ve all seen their elaborate security system there, pretty much the camera…trying to dissuade someone who’s 20 years old…and shouldn’t be buying a bottle of Black Velvet to take out of the convenience store with them," Hunter said.
Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, opposed the change, too.
"I think this is very egregious," Alon said. "It just proliferates this possibility of more juveniles getting access to hard liquor."
Representative Deborah Berry, a Democrat from Waterloo, said providing greater access to hard liquor in Iowa’s inner cities isn’t a good idea.
"One of the problems that I see that we have in urban communities and particularly poor communities, minority communities is the fact that there is an abundance of alcohol…and to me, by making it easier, I do believe that we are going to see an increase in alcoholism among our young people," Berry said, "not to mention an increase in communities that are already distressed."
Representative Jim Lukan, a Republican from New Vienna, argued some small town convenience stores need the extra revenue from hard liquor sales, and can’t afford to install a second entry door and hire an extra clerk to run the second cash register.
"There’s a lot of small business people awfully fed up with the actions we take around here from time to time and I’m not a super big fan of drinking, I’ll grant you that, but I come from a small business background," Lukan said. "I know how hard it is to keep those places open and keep those places businesses going."
Today, there are 34 convenience stores in the state which have that separate door, room and cash register for the sale of hard liquor. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says with the "overwhelming" vote of 63 to 24 in the House, the restrictions will stay and the issue will be dropped for this year.